My apologies to you if you are one of those people who fully understands what America’s Founders meant by the phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” that is found in the Declaration of Independence. This article was not written for you, although you might possibly discover something you didn’t know about your fellow citizens by reading on.
Nearly every American citizen of sufficient age is familiar, at least to some degree, with that statement of equality in the Declaration of Independence; yet, how many of us truly understand what it means?
It has become apparent to me (and very likely to others as well), that this phrase means something entirely different from what a majority of Americans now seem to think it means. I have held conversations with people who earnestly do not believe that any one person is born with more intelligence than any other person. This, I believe, is a foundational element of liberal thinking. The idea is that the entire explanation for intellectual variability, or variable artistic ability, or variable business acumen, is the existence of privilege and oppression. These two terms explain it all for so many today. And it relieves the conscience of those who have not achieved all they expected of themselves, which makes it doubly attractive to many.
If that poor child living in a slum had just had the kind of privilege the rich child living in a wealthy neighborhood with wealthy parents had, he (or she) would have gone just as far as the rich child did in whatever his (or her) pursuit might have been. If the black man (or woman) had experienced the same privilege as the white man (or woman), he (or she) would certainly have gone just as far. If white people weren’t constantly using their majority in the population to keep other races down, everyone would achieve the same level of success.
You may have noticed that I did not also include variability in athletic ability. This would be going too far in anyone’s estimation, because it is patently obvious to all that some people are born with greater athletic ability than others. It is far too easy to see it with your own eyes. It is undeniable. Sure, a skinny weakling with no coordination can work out, run, and play sports diligently until he or she improves his or her strength and coordination, but they cannot make themselves naturally grow to the size of the typical professional athlete and they cannot work hard enough in the arena to achieve the level of ability of the highest performers, if they are not naturally born with at least some extra degree of size and coordination.
So then, why do we expect human brains to be any different? Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges humans face is gauging the intellectual capacity of another person, or even ourselves. Unquestionably, you cannot judge the intellectual capacity of a person by their appearance. If you were given a yearbook full of photographs of students and tried to assign an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) to each student based on their appearance, there is no question that neither you, nor anyone else, could do it. And in the minds of many these days, the IQ is merely a measure of privilege or oppression a person has experienced in their life. All started with a clean slate and equal ability at birth.
Or did they?
If you are one of those who believes such a thing, then I challenge you to ask yourself a simple question. What oppression have you experienced and what privilege did Albert Einstein experience that explains why you are not held in equal intellectual esteem with Professor Einstein? Here is another question for you: How is it that even wealthy privileged parents sometimes give birth to babies that are, to use a most politically incorrect term these days, mentally retarded? Particularly when these parents have other children that demonstrate perfectly normal intelligence? Particularly when these parents go the extra mile showering their love and devotion on these special needs children?
If you are one of those who holds that everyone is born with equal intellectual capacity, it should be obvious to you by now that this is not the case. And if it is true that everyone is not born with an equal measure of intellectual capacity, then it must also be true that all of us are born with some degree of intellectual capacity that lies between the least possible degree of intellectual capacity and the greatest possible degree of intellectual capacity. And if that is true, then what on Earth did those crazy, slave-owning, racist, bigoted Founders of America mean by “all men are created equal?!” Truly!
To answer this question, we have to consider the time when the Declaration of Independence was written. Prior to the existence of the United States of America, all governed nations were ruled by kings and queens. Those territories not governed were ruled by tribes. No such thing as a President ever ruled a nation before the USA came along. Kings and queens derived their power, not from the people over whom they ruled, but by divine decree. Many were believed by their subjects to actually have the blood of their gods running in their veins. Others were given their special status above all others by God through their nation’s religious leaders. Regardless, the point is, these rulers all enjoyed (and in some countries today still do enjoy) a superior status above their subjects. This superior status was (and still is where such rulers still exist) necessary to maintain power. To not be questioned by the ruled as to their legitimacy to rule.
It was with this prevailing circumstance that America’s Founders most emphatically believed that it must be made absolutely and abundantly clear that such a superior status DOES NOT EXIST. Thus, “all men are created equal.”
Equal in status. Equal in the eyes of the law. Those governing do so by the consent of the governed. And only by the consent of the governed. Meaning that as soon as those governing begin to believe they are superior to (no longer equal, but above) the governed, the governed may choose not to consent and may remove them from office. The entire purpose of holding frequent and regular elections is to ensure that no one is more than one election away from losing their consent to govern. The unmitigated desire by so many politicians to win every election and stay in office is proof positive of how important it is that we citizens never stop reminding our rulers that we are equal to them and they are equal to us in status. That they are not, never have been, and never will be superior to those they have been given the privilege to govern.
To you and me, this seems obvious, but let me just tell you my friend, to those elected to office, it is not. Simply winning an election (nothing more than a popularity contest) is enough to swell the heads of most people. Then, after a few years of hanging around others that have also won election, those heads get even bigger. And finally, when the elected begin to acquire wealth as a result of their newfound power, only the most humble and thankful have any chance at all of not succumbing to the overwhelming and almost irresistible feeling of superiority.
And to those for whom this is not obvious, the phrase, “all men are created equal,” means created by God as equals in status. No matter how rich and/or powerful a person may be, in the eyes of the law as an American citizen, and in the eyes of God as a human being, that person is equal in status to the lowliest, poorest, most powerless, and unsuccessful person on Earth. (Unless, of course, that person is a Clinton!)